The price is right at Howelsen Hill. PHOTO: Scott Franz/Steamboat Today
The price is right at Howelsen Hill. PHOTO: Scott Franz/Steamboat Today

Colorado Ski Area Pondering $1 Lift Tickets

Steamboat Springs' Howelsen Hill strives toward affordability

Of all skier gripes, the most common concerns the astronomical cost of lift tickets. It was only as recent as 2010 that day passes crossed the $100 threshold for the first time (that year, Vail and Beaver Creek charged $108 for a holiday day ticket), a mark many considered shocking and unattainable at the time. Today, that seems like the good ole days when we were all on leather boots and hickory sticks, as ski resorts across the country frequently charge upward of the century mark. Vail continues to lead the way, charging $189 for a walk-up day ticket.

But a little Colorado ski area is looking at a different strategy. Howelsen Hill, a town-owned ski area in Steamboat Springs, is discussing whether to charge $1 lift tickets this winter.

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“I just want more skiers out there,” said City Council President Walter Magill, according to a report in Steamboat Today. “More people using the park.”

Like most small ski hills in the U.S., Howelsen is struggling to make ends meet. The newspaper notes that Howelsen will spend $750,000 on a damaged waterline for snowmaking, while forecasting just $185,000 in revenue from season pass and lift ticket sales. The goal for lowering the price of lift tickets is seen as a way to get more people to come and enjoy Colorado's most historic ski area.

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Founded in 1915, Howelsen, located in downtown Steamboat Springs, is the longest continuously operating ski area in Colorado. It has sent more winter athletes to the Olympics than any other ski area in the country. Buddy Werner, considered by many to be America's first great male alpine skier, learned to ski at Howelsen, which has a vertical drop of 440 feet. The hill continues to support a robust winter youth league, and on any given day throughout the season, one can witness skiers and snowboarders training in all disciplines, from Nordic skiing and freestyle, to gates and long jumping.

Details still have to be flushed out by the ski area and town, but if the plan moves forward, skiers will be looking at some easy math: 189 days at Howelsen for the price of one day at Vail.